It is important to protect suburban homes in or
around wilderness areas from the severe danger of wildfire.
"Defensible Space Management
It is important to have an area around your home or structures, which is either man-made or
natural where the vegetation is modified and maintained to slow the
rate and intensity of an advancing wildland fire. This space also provides
room for firefighters to work and helps protect the forest from becoming
involved should a structure fire occur.
Severe wildfire hazards exist on most forested building
sites. Many hazards can be effectively reduced by following these
defensible space guidelines developed by the Oregon-California
State Forest Service. To protect your property, follow the guidelines
- Thin out continuous tree and brush cover around structures. The
initial 15 feet around a structure should consist of an area in which
all flammable vegetation is removed. Beyond the initial 15 feet, the
trees should be thinned to 10 - 12 foot crown spacing. Occasionally,
clumps of 2 or 3 trees are permitted for natural effects if more space
surrounds them. The dimensions of a defensible space are subjective,
site specific and dependent on site characteristics.
- Dispose of all slash and debris left from thinning by either chipping,
hauling away or by piling and burning.
Remove dead limbs, leaves and other ground litter within the defensible
Stack firewood uphill or on a contour and at least 15 feet from your
- Maintain a greenbelt immediately around your home using grass, flower
gardens, or ornamental shrubbery. An alternative is rock or other
noncombustible material; avoid bark or wood chip mulch in this area.
- Mow dry grass and weeds to a height of 6 inches or less for a distance
of 30 feet.
- Prune branches from trees within the defensible space to a height
of 10 feet above the ground fuels. Also remove shrubs and small trees,
or other potential "ladder" fuels from beneath large trees. If left in place, these can carry a ground fire into the tree crowns.
- Trim branches which extend over eaves of roofs. Remove branches within
15 feet of a chimney.
Clean roof and gutters of pine needles and leaves to eliminate an
ignition source for firebrands, especially during the hot, dry weather
of the fire season.
- Reduce density of surrounding forest at least 100 feet out from your
structure. Thin the trees so there is 10 foot crown spacing.
Maintain the defensible space annually, by removing debris, shrubs
and other vegetation which has accumulated during the year.
Fire is capricious. It can find the weak link in your home’s
fire protection scheme and gain the upper hand because of a small,
overlooked or seemingly inconsequential factor. While you may not
be able to accomplish all measures below (and there are no guarantees),
each will increase your home’s, and possibly your family’s,
safety and survival during a wildfire.